Wednesday, May 28, 2014

NEPA Returns to HokaHeh; Ryan Goes to Bogotá

Hello NEPA Community! We’ve decided to pay some attention to our overly-neglected blog. We realized my travels as the New Artistic Director would be an exciting place to begin this revitalization of our personal website, and so I am sharing stories from my travels with our Native Earth community.

One of the exciting opportunities that come with being the Artistic Director of Native Earth Performing Arts is travelling to see the work of unfamiliar actors, and to consider scripts and productions for future presentations in Native Earth's space, the Aki Studio Theatre. It’s also one of the best ways to build relationships with other arts organizations and arts leaders.

Here is an excerpt from my recent travels in Bogotá:

This week I am writing from Bogotá, Columbia while I am attending the International Society of the Performing Arts’ annual conference and The Ibero-American Theater Festival of Bogotá. There is a little-known, yet incredible program at Canada Council for the Arts, that supports emerging and mid-career arts leaders travelling to conferences produced by the International Society of the Performing Arts (ISPA), called the Canada Council Legacy Program. Last year I had the extreme honour of being accepted into this program. It was very serendipitous that this should happen at this point in time, since this year NEPA co-produced the second edition of the panamerican ROUTES | RUTAS panamericanas Festival with Aluna Theatre. The panamerican ROUTES | RUTAS panamericanas Festival is an international festival of performing arts which happens every two years and programs Latin and Indigenous artists from across the Americas. We just wrapped up the festival last month with an amazing line-up of artists, and I’d like to thank everyone who came out to the festival.

Upon my arrival to Bogotá, I was really excited to take in the city, so I decided to walk around the hotel, grab something to eat, and gather my first impressions. You don’t necessarily want to do that in every neighborhood in Bogotá, but I was staying in the North area which is quite safe and has tons of people out and about in cafés and patios enjoying the beautiful weather. My cab driver from the airport said the weather is like this all year long (20-29°C during the day)…. the locals call it “eternal spring”. I was surprised by this because Bogotá is at a very high altitude and is surrounded by mountains. But it’s true! I guess because it’s so close to the Equator.

While I was walking around I unexpectedly came across the National Theatre Fanny Mikey, which is the headquarters for the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro, or The Ibero-American Theater Festival of Bogotá. Excellent!!! I went to the ticket booth, purchased a ticket (not knowing what the show was) and waited for show time, which is at 8:30pm in Bogotá . Everything seems to happen a little later here than in Canada.

The show is from the Czech Republic and is called Europeana by Davidlo Na Zabradli. Of course in my North American arrogance I just assumed it would be in English or at least have English subtitles - but no. It was in Czech with Spanish subtitles. Luckily, yo hablo un poquito de español (I speak a little Spanish). The show was incredible.  The acting was completely engaging. Everything took place in an office board room and all eight actors where dressed like they worked in the office. Afterwards, I discovered the show was about the history of Europe in the 20th century and based on the book Europeana by Ourednik Patrick. You can find the full description and trailer for the show on the link above. Some of the show highlights:

  • No theatrical lighting! Just a bank of fluorescents above the stage that actually moved and could be turned off individually.
  • An actor hanging himself from the ceiling. 
  • The entire cast copulating with books.
  • The actors slowly destroying the board room over two acts and each taking turns going out the patio doors on the back wall of the set into what looked like a balcony to smoke. Yes, real smokes!
  • Then at one point nearly the entire cast having a disco party out there with an old school ghetto blaster. And yes, the ghetto blaster played the music, so when they shut the patio door the music was muffled enough to hear the lone actor on stage deliver a passionate monologue to the audience. 
  • A lot of direct address to the audience as they described the events of the 20th century.
After the show, I picked up some empanadas and headed back to my hotel with my midnight snack. A good first eight hours in Bogotá!

The next day I woke up not feeling very well. Bogotá is so high in the mountains that many travellers experience altitude sickness for the first few days and I was definitely suffering through that. It felt like I had the flu, but I pushed through it and met up with some colleagues from previous conferences to do some sight-seeing before the conference started. We visited Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá (the contemporary art museum) and Museo Botero (The Botero Museum named after Fernando Botero). Considered the most recognized and quoted living artist from Latin America, Fernando Botero’s signature style is known as Boertismo.

Seeing such remarkable art revived me and my afternoon passed quite pleasantly. We travelled to the main square where you can ride llamas, see Casa de Nariño (the presidential palace) and justice buildings. The architecture is hundreds of years old, and originally built by the Spaniards, so the area is very European.

We then took a gondola lift up to the top of the nearest mountain, Monserrate. At the top there is a church and monastery (now just a tourist attraction), shops and restaurants. When you look out over the city there is an amazing view of the bowl shaped valley that the city is situated in. When you look the other way, you see nothing but jungle for as far as you can see. Up this high and not used to the altitude, walking up just a handful of steps made most of us feel weak and out of breath. And I’m not going to lie; travelling up the nearly vertical cable car ride was a little unnerving.

After this full day, and a short rest back at our hotels, we met up with some of the other delegates and had dinner in a large group. It’s extremely inspiring sitting among a group of artists, producers, presenters, festival managers, executives and directors of arts organizations from all over the world. Some of them have known and worked with each other for many decades. This was the first time they had reconnected in months since the last conference. They have all worked in every medium of art you can think of, which made for truly inspiring conversations. One of the main goals and amazing aspects of ISPA is to bring arts leaders from around the world together to network, build partnerships and share arts practices and names of upcoming artists. It’s an amazing and unique opportunity that feeds the global arts community and keeps it moving and evolving.

After a fantastic meal and wonderfully animated conversations, we made our way back to our hotels to get a good rest before the conference the next morning. This was totally necessary, because the conference was jam-packed with panels and presentations starting from 8am to 5 or 6pm in the evening. Then of course it’s off to see shows in the evening. Five days of this does get, admittedly, very tiring, but it is also extremely inspiring!

Thank you for following along... More coming from Native Earth Performing Arts soon!

Photo Credits: Ryan Cunningham (NEPA), Chris Lorway (Soundstreams), Robert Gilder (Robert Gilder and Associates)

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